Checklist for Diabetic Travelers

Sea World San Diego's Medical Laboratory is seen in this photo

These days, Type 2 "Adult Onset" diabetes is exploding in proportions never seen before in Earth's history. And at the same time, the travel industry is ALSO experiencing an unprecedented boom. What we can expect, then, is a record number of folks with diabetes who are traveling.

Nothing wrong with that! After diagnosis, a diabetic should...with proper caution...continue to enjoy the activities in life which have always made living "worthwhile."

But, if you're a newly-diagnosed diabetic, you may be wondering how your travel plans may possibly affect your blood sugar levels, alter the way you feel, or have a bearing on your long-term condition. THIS PAGE DOES NOT ATTEMPT TO SUBSTITUTE FOR YOUR PHYSICIAN'S ADVICE. (ALWAYS ask your medical practitioner ANY questions you have about your diabetes...there's simply NO substitute for that!) However, while reading this page, you may encounter some diabetic travel topics you've never thought about. (In other words, use this page as a SPRINGBOARD for discussion with your doctor; not as a replacement for him or her.)

On this page, we'll discuss things you should pack, foods you should eat, clothing you should wear (particularly shoes/footwear), rest you should get, and touch on a bit about medical facilities available both at Disneyland Park and in the Anaheim, California/Orange County, CA area.





Checklist for Diabetic Travelers:

1.) Checking your blood sugar levels during your trip

If you've been diabetic for a long time, you're undoubtedly aware that having a low blood sugar level can cause you to become confused or incoherent; to sweat or get cold, clammy skin; to convulse; or to "pass out" and lose consciousness. If you're a newly-diagnosed diabetic, or if your blood sugar levels are USUALLY well-controlled, you may not be aware that these things can happen. Don't take these adverse effects of diabetes as a laughing matter; don't think that these conditions can "happen to someone else, but not to ME!" Because, if you have that devil-may-care attitude, then you'll be EXACTLY the one to develop these complications---not the guy who takes good care of himself!

  • Traveling will stress your body in ways that staying at home doesn't do. That doesn't mean you shouldn't travel; what's a life for if not to live to its fullest? It just means that you'll need to be aware of potential problems, and make plans to combat these problems before they happen.

  • The first and foremost thing you should do is to take your glucometer (your blood sugar testing machine) with you on your trip and USE IT! There are many reasons why your blood sugar might fluctuate while you're traveling. For example, let's say you'll be taking a road trip to the Los Angeles theme parks. You won't be able to reach Southern California without driving through areas where restaurants and towns are scarce...sometimes 30 to 60 minutes apart. It's entirely possible that you won't be eating your meals with the same regularity as you do at home!

  • Bring your glucometer's test strips, your lancets, your alcohol wipes and your cotton balls with you. In other words, bring everything you'd use to test your blood sugar levels at home

  • Will you be going to Disneyland Park? Be aware that some of the lines for Disneyland's rides are horrendously long. One reader just wrote me that she spent 100 minutes in line for the Space Mountain roller coaster---and that was on a rainy day in March...the middle of Disneyland's "slow" season! No, not every ride is going to make you wait that long... But, just imagine if you went without eating for a long time while waiting in a line. Then, after leaving the ride, you head for a restaurant...but then have to wait another half hour before your food arrives? Delays which are out of your control sometimes happen on vacations! You can easily see why your blood sugar might flutter around more while you're traveling than when you're home.




    2,) Pharmacies Near Disneyland Park

    If you run out of diabetic testing supplies, then Southern California is full of pharmacies where you can buy replacements.

  • In the case of a Disneyland visit, there are at least 2 pharmacies close to Disneyland, both of which are on Harbor Blvd (the same street as the Disneyland Resort). These are Walgreen's Pharmacy, and the Target store pharmacy. They'll most likely have the supplies for which you're looking...and if they don't, they'll direct you to a drug store which does. The address of the Walgreen's close to Disneyland Park is: 12002 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92840. The Walgreen's phone number is (714) 663-2850. (Disneyland sits right on the border of Anaheim and Garden Grove...so don't be concerned that they're in 2 different suburb cities. They're very close, nevertheless.) The Walgreens store hours are 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days per week. A drive-through window is available.

    The address for the Target Store is 12100 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, Calif 92840. The Target Store phone number is (714) 971-4826. As of this writing, the Target Pharmacy hours are 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The pharmacy hours for Saturdays and Sundays are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. (The store itself is open from 9:00 am thru 10:00 pm Mon-Sat, and 9 am to 9 pm on Sundays.

    You will need to view a map, which will give you directions to the Walgreens and Target pharmacies. (Since they're close together, then one map will do for the both of them.) They're both one mile from Disney property line; 1 1/2 miles from the Disneyland turnstiles. The Harbor Blvd bus runs approximately 4 times an hour from 4 am until 1 am, so you don't even need to have a car with you to reach them. Please use the following link to view a Google map to the Walgreen's and Target store near Disneyland Park.

  • Do you usually use a Walmart pharmacy? Surprisingly, Walmart stores can be hard to find in greater Los Angeles...but as luck would have it, there DOES happen to be a Walmart near Disneyland. The address for the Walmart in-store pharmacy is 440 Euclid St, Anaheim, CA 92801. The Walmart Pharmacy phone number is (714) 491-1778. This Walmart location is under 2 miles from the Disneyland Resort's giant parking structure. There is no bus that goes from Disneyland directly to the Walmart (this would require waiting for a transfer; it's much quicker to drive.) You may use the following link to view a Google map to the Anaheim Walmart store near Disneyland Park.





    Checklist for Diabetic Travelers:

    3.) Nutritition during your vacation

    As you have read in the paragraphs above, taking a vacation can mean having delayed or missed meals. For a non-diabetic, this situation merely causes an uncomfortable "hungry" feeling. For a diabetic, however, a missing or delayed dinner could bring on those terrible symptoms we talked about earlier on this page.

    Considering that you MAY become confused or lose consciousness if your blood sugar levels drop too low, then it's a wise idea to alert your traveling companions to this possibility before leaving on your trip. Make a list of what they should do if these symptoms start to occur. Will you want them to give you some oral glucose? Make sure you've brought it along on the trip, and give your companions written instructions on how much to give you and exactly WHERE in your bags the glucose is packed.

    For a less-dire drop in your blood sugar, you'll remain alert and will possibly want to drink some orange juice (or your usual pick-me-up of choice.) Obviously, then, this juice or alternative is another thing you'll want to have packed ahead of time.

    For the event that you should become confused or lose consciousness while you're not with your traveling companions, be sure to have a diabetic "medical alert" bracelet on, or keep a card informing attendants of your diabetic status in your purse or wallet. Some pharmacies carry medical ID bracelets. Or, you may visit the website of MedicAlert, the company which more or less founded and propelled the entire medical bracelet industry. You may use the following link to visit the MedicAlert company site, which offers an attractive variety of medical/diabetic ID bracelets and necklaces.

    Of course, there are other companies that make Medical/Diabetic alert jewelry...including some that specialize in "hip and stylish" medical jewelry (which would particularly appeal to teen diabetics.) Googling the word "medical bracelets" or "diabetic bracelets" will turn up an assortment of websites for you to look through.

    Ah...but back to the topic of "diabetic nutrition while on the road." Shop for snacks to keep in your luggage, purse or backpack, just as you'd shop for any other vacation getaway supplies. In addition to blood sugar-raising juices for emergencies, pack healthy meal substitutes, in case you're miles from a town at dinner time. For example, in the USA, protein-rich tuna fish now comes in pop-open cans, and even in combo packs with crackers. Microwavable individual servings of stew, chili, or hearty soup can be heated up in your hotel room's microwave.

    When you stop for gas, you'll possibly be tempted by the selection of candies, cookies, muffins, and soda pops that most gas stations along the interstate highways seem to carry. Be strong! Head for the refrigerator section and grab some milk. But remember...it's easier to pass temptation by IF you've packed some of your favorite healty snacks in your bag ahead of time! It's easier to skip the mini-donuts if you know you've got some of your favorite trail mix or a packet of beef jerky awaiting you in the car.





    Checklist for Diabetic Travelers: Special considerations when visiting Disneyland

    4.) Disneyland's On-Site Medical Facilities

    Most people think of Disneyland's First Aid station as simply a place to get bandaids for the blisters on your feet. While the First Aid station gives that appearance...because it doesn't dispense prescription medications...the nurse you'll find there is sure to have a top-notch work history (from an ICU, ER or other highly skilled area of care.) You may wonder how that's possible, given Disney's reputation for pinching pennies on the salaries of its employees. The answer to that interesting question is that the nurse on duty at Disneyland is half-way donating his or her time. Compared to what that nurse could be earning in an Orange County hospital's ICU, the salary paid by Disneyland may be as much as HALF of what that nurse COULD be making elsewhere. Nevertheless, Disneyland has neither trouble in recruiting or retaining its medical personnel. Go figure. I guess the allure of working at the glamorous theme park outweighs salary considerations for some employees.

    Disneyland wants to bring you the best nursing staff possible because these employees are not there just to treat your blisters---they're front-line personnel in the fight against law suits and negative publicity! While nothing...YET...seems to have damaged Disneyland's reputation and attendance figures due to park injuries, each new mishap brings a whole boatload of negative publicity for the park. It's easier for the park to avert potential problems than to deal with weeks or months of backlash in newspaper, TV and internet articles later on.

    In addition to maintaining extremely well-qualified nurses on duty, Disneyland has it's own fire station on-premesis, with an ambulance and 2 medics on-hand at all time. Should this emergency assistance be inadequate to handle the problem, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure maintain a number of emergency vehicle entrances. If you lose consciousness from low blood sugar (or have a heart attack, etc.) anywhere in the theme parks, an outside ambulance can get to you from an access point close to where you're waiting...rather than the ambulance having to thread its way to you slowly from the main entrance. Disneyland's theme parks hold emergency drills to keep personal in-practice, and keep emergency response times to a minimum.





    5.) Foot care while visiting Disneyland and other theme parks

    While Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California is much more compact than its sister park, Walt Disney World in Florida, there is still PLENTY of walking to do! Obviously, a threat to your long-term health could occur if you develop a blister on your foot from all that walking...and then it turned into a full-fledged diabetic foot wound. Yikes! So, what should you do?

  • Your number one strategy, of course, is to wear shoes to Disneyland which aren't likely to cause blisters. Only YOU know your shoe wardrobe to determine the answer to THAT question! And, indeed, DO use a shoe that's already within your wardrobe, because buying a brand-new shoe to wear to Disneyland is more likely to cause you a blister than sticking with an "old favorite."

  • The other terribly important tactic for you to employ is to limit the amount of walking you do each day at the Disney theme parks. This will be easy to do if you just "mellow out" about what you want to see. Take in some rides...then sit for a parade. (Go early to find a curbside spot where you can sit down during the parade.) Take in a few more rides, and head to your hotel for a swim break. Take in a few more rides, then stop for a meal. Constantly alternate periods activity with rest breaks where you're sitting or lying down.

  • Maintain your feet in good condition. Inspect your feet daily for cracks...which could lead to open areas of ulceration later. Use moisturizing creams and lotions to keep the skin of your feet and legs soft and supple. Keep all toenails trimmed. If you have any doubt about whether or not you might cut the skin of your feet while trimming your toenails, then use a podiatrist's service to cut your toenails.

  • Do not let your legs get swollen, as this will increase the chances that an ulceration may occur. Yes, you DO have at least some control over swelling...without medications. If you notice your legs swelling, always alert your physician to this fact. Stay away from salty foods, and don't add extra salt to your meals. Increase the amount of time that you spend with your feet elevated.

    It's possible that your feet might swell while you're on vacation, even if they don't normally do so. This is because you'll be doing an increased amount of walking, and because many restaurant food selections are high in sodium (salt.) Also, during summertime vacations, you'll be outside in the heat...and heat is another factor that increases edema (swelling) of the legs. To be on the safe side, don't eat salty foods while on vacation---things like potato chips, pizza, fried chicken, french fries and soups. If you'll be microwaving frozen dinners in your hotel room, pay attention to the sodium content of these dinners. (That information is always listed on the outside of the box in the USA). Surprisingly, some TV dinners can contain a full 45% of your day's sodium intake! The Marie Calender's brand, while extra-tasty, is one brand that seems to be predictably high in the sodium content of its food. Naturally, "good nutrition" specialty brands like Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine pride themselves on producing lower-sodium entrees...but even so, these "lower sodium" brands still contain %18-25% of one day's salt intake!





    Want more info about your diabetes?

    Have you been newly diagnosed with diabetes? Or, would you simply enjoy reading more helpful information about your condition? I know of an interesting and informative website that can give you the further details you'd like to know.

    Follow this link to www.your-diabetes.com At this website, you will discover diabetes from a diabetic's point of view. At www.your-diabetes.com you can---Find out more about the different types of diabetes; symptoms; additional health risks diabetics have and how to minimise them; how to control your diabetes; healthy eating options for diabetics - including free recipes--including desserts! Share your recipe and you might win the monthly prize draw! Read about others experience with diabetes and share yours. See regular news updates on diabetes and other health issues.







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